Why Working With Art Galleries Just Doesn't Work for Fine Artists

Why Working With Art Galleries Just Doesn’t Work


Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone. It’s Ann Rea coming to you live from San Francisco, California. I am a fine artist just like you. I’m also the creator of the Making Art Making Money program. And today I want to talk about the five reasons why art galleries are not working for fine artists, and probably never will. So, I made a little sticky note of the points that I’d like to make. So first of all, there are limited sales. Right? You have to, you know, hope and pray, “Please, please, please.” That’s why I call it the permission and scarcity-based art establishment. “Please let me put a piece in your gallery.” Right? So you, you hope and pray that you’ll get a very limited amount of inventory in the gallery, or maybe you’ll be allowed to participate in a group show. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have a solo show, but who the hell cares you have a solo show, and in like once a year maybe, and you’re really fortunate, right?

Ann Rea: (01:07)
And then you got to get back. Then you have to get back in line. So, can you imagine any business being able to thrive under those conditions where their sales are like physically limited? No! Right? So that’s reason number one why art galleries are not working for fine artists, and never will. Now number two, let me look at my note here. Oh, sales commissions! Okay. So art galleries typically take anywhere from 30 up to I’ve even heard 70% sales commissions. It was not a lot of left-over after they’ve taken those commissions, but that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is the third reason, which is that art galleries do not provide the artists, this is on– I know there’s like a few exceptions, very few and far between. They don’t provide fine artists with their collectors’ contact information. Well, that means the artists can’t know their customers.

Ann Rea: (02:12)
Can you imagine any business being able to thrive without knowing who their customers are? No! Even though this is illegal in many jurisdiction, art galleries get away with it because they have such a long line of artists who don’t have another option or who don’t yet know they have another option. But that’s number three. The fact that you can’t know your own customers, and like, it’s not as if they buy the inventory. It’s consigned. And in fact, it’s unlimited tax-free inventory because they don’t own it, which is a pretty sweet deal. So then reason number four. So let’s think. Let’s pretend for a moment things are going along swimmingly with your gallery, and if you’re an artist right now, that’s things are going well, I need to warn you. You are eventually going to fall out of favor, because another artist is gonna come along whose art just sells better than yours.

Ann Rea: (03:20)
And they own a business. And it’s a business owner’s responsibility to generate a profit. So out you go. You’re going to be displaced by another fine artist whose art sells better than yours. That’s reason number four. Reason number five, a lot of artists already know this, art galleries are going out of business left and right. You know, during the economic recession, 2007-2008, over half of all art galleries completely went out of business and never came back. Well, during this global pandemic that’s happening again. Now, the good news is more affluent people are buying more art than they did before the pandemic, but are they buying from art galleries, or art shows that have been canceled? Not really. They’re buying directly from artists just like you. And the reason why is because they don’t care about the middleman. They care about the artist so you have a huge advantage that your art representative doesn’t want you to know about.

Ann Rea: (04:25)
So if you want to learn more about the current environment for selling fine art, I’m going to invite you to join a free five-day challenge that’s happening. It’s starting on Tuesday, January 18th and running till Saturday. And all you have to do is click below and apply. The classes– the live classes are 30 minutes each. And if you can’t make it to class, you can watch the replay although it’s always better if you can make the live class. And what I highly recommend is that you think of one or two other fine artists just like you, and invite them to join you in the challenge. Now, the reason why this is really good thing to do is because if you’ve got someone else who’s learning along with you, then you can share what you’ve learned, and you can kind of support each other, and hold each other accountable. That said, I will have some volunteer students in our Facebook group for the live challenge who can help you.

Ann Rea: (05:23)
Now, if you’ve been in one of my challenges before, that’s great, but this is a brand new one. So you don’t wanna miss it. And if you want to start 2022 off with a bang, I highly recommend that you join. So let me just recap the five reasons again why art galleries are not working for fine artists and never will. Number one, your sales are incredibly limited. Your opportunity to actually sell is incredibly limited. It’s like physically limited. That’s number one. Number two, you’re paying this absurd amount in sales commissions. That’s number two. Number three, the more important part, you can’t gain referrals. Now, number three, not being able to know your customers. Let me do some math for you on that. When you know your customers, you can cultivate referrals. People who were referred to you are 82% more likely to buy from you and spend more money.

Ann Rea: (06:29)
And you keep a 100% of that money. If you work with an art gallery, you’re not getting any of those referrals. And you’re certainly not keeping a percent, right? So number that’s number three. Number four, you got to deal with the reality that eventually, even if you’re happy with your art gallery now, that’s great, but you will eventually. Chances are very high that you’re eventually going to fall out of favor. And then last but not least, it’s going go out of business. Art galleries are going out of business left and right, just like art shows are canceling and you better get with it. Right? You’ve got three choices right now. They’re all valid choices. As long as you make them consciously. Right now, the art market is in a disruptive phase. But when there’s disruption, there’s actually opportunity. So number one, you can sit there, do nothing, and guarantee your failure, right?

Ann Rea: (07:27)
But don’t whine about it if you didn’t do anything when you could. Right? I’m giving you an access to full five days of teaching for free. Alright. So it’s up to you. The other option you have is to do some things. Basically I see artists guessing, “Well, I’ll do a little bit of this and I’ll do a little bit of that. I’ll have a newsletter.” You know, I was talking to an applicant today who is creating this art, and she’s going to give a percentage of the proceeds to a charity. I’m like, “Well, then you can’t join the program because this is called the Making Art Making Money program. And when you give your art away in total or a portion of it, don’t expect to be paid for it. Okay? Just don’t.” So that’s an option. You can do a few things here, and there. You’re still going to fail. You’ll just fail more slowly. Or you can do the right things right now, and take advantage of the disruption that’s happening in the art market. That’s actually an opportunity. So I hope to see you on Tuesday, January 18th, it’s going to start at noon Pacific standard on the dot. If you’re in Australia, you’re probably gonna be sleeping. Don’t worry about it. You can watch it later. Alright, everyone. Thank you for listening. I hope this was helpful.

Ann Rea

Ann Rea, Fine Artist & Mentor

Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based fine artist. She created Making Art Making Money®, the leading and most reputable business program for fine artists since 2005. Rea’s art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent was commended by her mentor, art icon Wayne Thiebaud.

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